Robert Hodgson of Pleasant Garden

Robert Hodgson, son of Robert and Rachel (Shotten) Hodgson, was born circa 1670 in Rhode Island; died 1733, with his will probated in Cecil County, Maryland; he married (1697?) Sarah Borden (December 19, 1680-1748, Cecil County, Maryland, will), daughter of Matthew and Sarah (Clayton) Borden.

Three months after his father’s death, Robert Hodgson is “Taken in ffreemen in this Town,” August 19, 1696. He apparently married the following year.

The couple migrated, possibly with his sister and some of his in-laws, to the new Quaker settlements of New Jersey, where Sarah’s siblings established Bordentown. This was directly across the Delaware River from Penn Manor, Fallsington, and Bristol, Pennsylvania, where Robert’s sister now resided in Bucks County. West Jersey, as the colony was also known, was under Quaker proprietorship with strong Irish connections a few years before Pennsylvania and Delaware were granted to William Penn. So far, we have no definite explanation for the Hodgson and Bordens’ reasons for leaving Rhode Island, other than an assumption that it was for better prospects of prosperity. A Rhode Island history explains: “Robert probably went to Burlington, N.J., with his sisters about the same time as his wife’s nephew, Joseph, founded Bordentown.” At one time, Burlington Monthly Meeting had under its care, on the west bank of the Delaware River, Shackamaxon, Chester, Hoarkills, New Castle, and Falls Meetings. Two clues, however, involve the changing nature of the Aquidneck economy, which was shifting from an agricultural to commercial. Newport, especially, was a leading financial and trading center, known as “the centre of an extensive business in piracy, privateering, smuggling, and legitimate trade.” Until it was surpassed by the new city of Philadelphia down the coast, Newport was also the center of Quakerism in colonial America. Combine this with the size of Robert Hodgson’s estate – approximately sixty-six acres – and one can perceive that if he intended to continue farming, and to have enough land for a large family as well, he would have to move on.

There is also the possibility that the Hodgsons owned some property in the region as a consequence of their father’s association with William Penn.

Robert and Sarah began relocating further downstream from his sister and Sarah’s family, in time moving from Chester toward the headwaters of Chesapeake Bay. I am wondering whether Robert may have ventured into the Delaware Valley as a young bachelor, and whether any of the initial entries in the History of Chester County, Pennsylvania fit his movement: “In 1692, Thomas Bright assigns to Robert Hutchinson, now of Concord, fifty acres of land there, which Robert Hutchinson, of Darby, tailor, sells in 1694 to Thomas King. In 1697 he is ‘late of Philadelphia, taylor,’ and buys fifty acres in Springfield. In 1699 he sells this, and the deed shows he was of Chester.” A model that has him venturing south as a bachelor would require some explanation for his return to Rhode Island, however brief, perhaps to settle his parents’ estate and then to marry. Note, too, that Sarah would have been young for a typical Quaker bride; once more, explanation is desired.

There is, however, another tantalizing clue to their movement, one that had not seemed relevant to me until a conversation with John K. Hodgin. This involves reports of a 1682 grant of 10,000 acres (in some accounts) or ten square miles (in others) by William Penn to Robert Hodgson. The tract is sometimes described as being on the Susquehanna River and north of Philadelphia. But because the Susquehanna is west of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania portions of the Susquehanna were still Indian territory at this time, this reference seemed illogical; the missing clue, however, came in John’s recollection of “on Sassafras Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna.” He then sent me his written source material. The Sassafras River flows into Chesapeake Bay just on the opposite shore just south of the Susquehanna’s mouth and reaches across Maryland into Delaware, which was indeed under William Penn’s proprietorship and available for settlement at that time. (The exact Maryland-Delaware border would not become definite until Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon drew their straight lines separating Maryland from Pennsylvania and Delaware, 1763-1767.) The Sassafras was also just below the Bohemia River, which is mentioned in Robert and Sarah’s movement – and is also just below the town of Warwick, with all of that name’s connotation’s with Robert’s mother’s inheritance.

Despite these earlier records, Robert and Sarah’s descendants point out that their line does not appear for certain in Pennsylvania until 1714. Again, from the History of Chester County, Pennsylvania: “The traditions of the Hodgson family of our county leave little room to doubt their descent from this man [Robert the Missioner], but his further history remains in the dark [this was published in the late 1800s]. The name is frequently written Hutchinson in the early records,” although the dates ascribed do not fit later knowledge about the son Robert. To continue:

Robert Hodgson and James Hendricks obtained a warrant 12, 16, 1714-15, to take up 2,000 acres on Conestoga Creek. In 1715 Robert Hodgson was a taxable in Chester. Having removed thence, a certificate was granted 8, 28, 1717, directed to Friends of Newark Monthly Meeting, for him and his family, including his wife, Sarah. On the Chester records the name is given as both Hutchinson and Hodgson. It does not appear that the family were ever considered members of the Friends’ meetings near their final settlement. A patent was granted in 1715 to Robert for 250 acres in East Nottingham, called “Hodgson’s Choice,” and upon this they probably settled. Another patent was granted by Maryland, May 24, 1728, for 660 acres, called “Pleasant Garden,” principally in what is New London township, Chester Co.

The family tradition is that Robert went first to Conestoga, but on account of troubles with the Indians left that place and tried Bohemia Manor, in Maryland. This was in turn abandoned, owing to the presence of ague. The latter being a Maryland patent was, of course, held to be in Cecil County. The will of Robert Hodgson, of Cecil County, “being very sick,” is dated Dec. 1, 1732, and proven Nov. 26, 1733. He mentions his wife, Sarah, and children Joseph, John, David, Richard, Phineas, Matthew, Rachel Scott, Sarah Hodgson, Jonathan, and Robert.

We should note that Pleasant Garden was established a year before George Hodgson married Mary Thatcher in Old Swede’s Church in Wilmington, Delaware. In my paper on George and Mary (Thatcher) Hodgson, I observed that distances from many of the relevant locations in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Maryland are often no more than a half-dozen miles; other times, no more than twenty. Because of continuing boundary disputes between their heirs of William Penn and Charles Calvert, court records for residents in this vicinity are often found in a state other than the one where we locate their residence today. Thus, many of the records involving Robert and Sarah and their family are recorded in Cecil County, Maryland, even though they dwelled in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

A twelve-mile arc around New Castle, Delaware, had been agreed upon by the Penn and Calvert heirs in 1732. As an attempt to secure his claim along the Maryland border, William Penn in 1702 plotted the so-called Nottingham Tract – 18,000 acres along the old Indian Trail from Chester to the Susquehanna River; this included thirty-seven lots of approximately five hundred acres each that lay in part of George Talbot’s “Susquehanna Manor,” which would be returned in 1767 to Maryland.

As Friends resettled, the original Newark Meeting (three miles from today’s Maryland state line) became what is now known as Old Kennett Meeting (to distinguish it from Kennett Square Meeting): the center of its members, then, shifted their neighborhoods northwest from Delaware into Pennsylvania.

Cecil County is seated at Elkton, originally called Head of Elk, after the river that gives Elk Township in Chester County its name; Elkton is perhaps a dozen miles from Pleasant Garden. Elkton is a similar distance to the Bohemia River, which flows into the Elk River as it broadens into Chesapeake Bay.

An 1881 Chester County history has the Pleasant Garden tract of 740 acres being survey by Maryland, “because the border at that time was unclear, although called 660 in the patent of Robert Hodgson. This was partly in Nottingham (now Elk) township, but mostly in New London and lay south of the Thunder Hill tract which joined it. Phineas Hodgson, son of Robert, obtained 400 acres of it, and this was divided among his sons, Robert, John, and Abel, in 1771.”

Early Pennsylvania Land Records has Robert Hodgson on the Eighth of Fourth Month, 1715, signing warrants with James Hendricks at Conestego to purchase 3,500 acres for ten pounds per hundred acres. Ellis Passmore Hodgson, in 1892 at a family reunion held at Pleasant Garden, explained that Robert Hodgson had patented 2,000 acres in one day, and in connection with James Hendricks, 1,500 the next.

In 1729 John and James Hendricks made the first authorized settlement across the Susquehanna River in what is now York County, Pennsylvania. One of these Hendricks, apparently, subsequently migrated to North Carolina.

*   *   *

About their children

1. Robert, born January 13, 1698, in Portsmouth, Rhode Island; died 1765 in Kent County, Delaware. He married Train Caldwell. Their children included sons Joseph (died 1759), Robert (died 1791), William (died 1770), David, and daughters Mary Catlin (wife of Joseph), and Margaret Prichard (wife of Robert Pritchett). This line largely continued through this period in Kent County.

2. Joseph, died 1751, with a Cecil County will. Apparently unmarried, he transferred his Pleasant Garden inheritance to brother Abel. Philadelphia suffered a severe outbreak of typhoid in 1749-50. Did it reach out into Chester County and, if so, does it account for a clustering of deaths among the siblings, 1751-52?

3. John HODSON, died 1752, with a Cecil County will. Is this the John Hodson who married Anne Whittaker, “both of Nottingham Township,” at Chesterfield Monthly Meeting in New Jersey, 1716? Many Bordens were active in this Meeting. Perhaps the date is in error, for that would have him being uncommonly young to marry.

4. David, presumably the one who left a 1748 Kent County will. Perhaps he remained on the Bohemia Manor claim.

5. Richard, died 1751, with a Cecil County will. Apparently unmarried.

6. Phineas, died intestate, leaving three sons: (a) Robert (circa 1737-1780), married Elizabeth Todd and settled in Frederick County, Virginia; (b) son John, who also apparently moved south; and son Abel (1745-1817), who served 1778 in the militia. Ellis P. Hodgson’s History of the Hodgson Family, 1665-1892, details the descendants of this line, which held the Pleasant Garden estate. (For the record, North Carolina Quaker Dolley Payne’s first husband was also a Todd, a Philadelphia lawyer; after his death, she married James Madison and is noted in the New Garden Friends minutes as “formerly of our society.”)

7. Matthew. I have nothing more on him.

8. Jonathan, a hatter in Philadelphia.

9. Rachel Scott. I have nothing more on her.

10. Sarah. She married Joseph Wood Jr. on February 17, 1734/5, at St. Stephen Episcopal in Cecil County, Maryland. I have nothing more on her.

One loose end is a grandson of Robert and Sarah, a Jonathan of Philadelphia, who sells Hodgson’s Choice to his cousin Abel. Another loose end is the Anne Hodson of Burlington, New Jersey, who marries James Kemingo in 1727. Still another wonders about the Sarah Hodgson who transfers from Falls Monthly Meeting to Philadelphia, Fifth Month 7, 1725.

*   *   *

About Sarah Borden’s lineage

Sarah was the daughter of Matthew and Sarah (Clayton) Borden.

Like his father, Robert found his marriage linking him to some of New England’s foremost dissenters. In the early records of Portsmouth, presented earlier in this chapter, especially under the Shotten section, we have already encountered several members of her family.

Sarah Borden (born December 29, 1680, in Rhode Island; died 1748, Cecil County, Maryland will) was the daughter of Matthew (1638- ) and Sarah (Clayton) Borden. They married March 4, 1674, and six months later gave birth to Mary (1674); other children include Matthew (1676), Joseph (1678), and Ann (1683).

She was also the granddaughter of Richard Borden of Portsmouth (assistant 1653-54 and general treasurer 1654-55 of the colony of Rhode Island). Richard was the founder of the Borden family of New England and New Jersey; by wife Joan, he had Matthew, born May 1638, “the first English child born on Rhode Island,” and John (1640), Joseph (1643), Sarah (1644), Samuel (1645), Benjamin (1645), and Amie (1654). This name was often spelled Burden in the early days. Richard may be from Kent, England, the brother of John who came in the Elizabeth and Ann in 1635.

Who is the Quaker Anne Burden who comes to clear up her husband’s estate? Is she the second wife of Richard?

This line is also linked to both the notorious Lizzie Borden of nearby Fall River, Massachusetts, as well to Gail Borden, founder of the giant dairy corporation. (The Motts, another of the Portsmouth Quaker families, would found the apple corporation and play leading roles in the establishment of Cornell University and the YMCA.)

We have already seen that Robert’s father and Sarah’s father and grandfather had worked together in various civic offices. The families were already closely bonded.

Ann Clayton, meanwhile, was an early Quaker traveling in ministry who settled on Aquidneck Island, along with Robert Hodgson and Joseph and Jane Nicholson. Having come from Swarthmore in Lancashire, England, she “married Governor Nicholas Easton and, following his death, the old Antinomian, now Quaker and subsequent Governor of Rhode Island, Henry Bull,” as Arthur J. Worrall writes.


6 thoughts on “Robert Hodgson of Pleasant Garden”

  1. “So far, we have no definite explanation for the Hodgson and Bordens’ reasons for leaving Rhode Island, other than an assumption that it was for better prospects of prosperity.”

    I have a plausible explanation: The Hodgson were Quakers from Linton. Another strong meeting in the area was Settle. Numerous Settle Quakers followed Penn to Bucks County and the Province of West Jersey.

    I’ve just found a 1714 wedding document at Settle MM between a John Hodgson and Martha Wildman…. Martha Wildman’s relatives emigrated to Bucks Co. c. 1690. So, my theory is: The Hodsons may have intended to join Wildmans and the like in the Pennsylvania Quaker colonies all along… Quakers stuck together like glue in those days of persecution. As is documented by Besse and others, a thousand or more Quakers died incarcerated in English jails under Charles II.

    Now naturally it is a stretch to claim a strong connection here but the surnames Hodgson, Wildman, Stockdale, Priestley, and even Linton are associated by marriage in well-developed pedigrees on (where I’m doing work)
    ~• regards,
    Mike van Beuren (a Wildman)

    1. As I note elsewhere in the blog, Robert Hodgson was a butcher in the shire of Durham before he joined with Friends and eventually settled in Rhode Island.
      From the evidence at hand, Orphan George’s roots to back to Lumplaugh in Cumbria, via Lurgan, Ireland, rather than Yorkshire.
      That said, noting these overlapping family connections is important. I’m still curious about the Murrows in Guilford County, N.C., and the ones who were Hodgson neighbors in Lumplaugh.

  2. Hi, I was curious if you might know where one can get a copy of the Ellis Hodgson book, and I suspect this book might help me a lot in trying to parse out the lines in Virginia. Thanks!

    1. Perhaps through a rare book dealer. It was published long ago. I’m trying to recall if I saw a copy in a genealogical library, way back, or instead the quotes repeated in other old books.
      Those lines in Virginia, as I recall, get interesting, but never led toward the North Carolina eureka moment we were hoping for.
      Good luck, though.

  3. I am researching the Robert Hodgson who married Catherine McLelland Walker in Philadelphia at Christ’s Church in 1801. She was a widow with three children: 4 yr. old George, 14 yr. old Thomas and 15 yr. old Rosetta. Could this Robert Hodgson be the son of Capt. Jonathan Hodgson and Francina Bassett of Bohemia Manor? All three children were brought to Cecil Co. and two were married into Little Bohemia Creek planation families; Mercer at the “Rounds” and Matthews/Scanlin families at “Worsell Manor and” Strawberry Hill”. How many Hodgson’s were still on the Bohemia tract at the end of the 18th century? Do you have any information about Jonathan and Francina Hodgson and their children ( Joseph, Benjamin, Jonathan, Richard, Arminta and Robert)?

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